Copper tubing manufacturer Kobe-Wieland faces a disability discrimination suit for allegedly terminating Joseph Cardwell because it perceived him to be disabled when he was not.
Cardwell is missing some fingers from his left hand as the result of a childhood accident. He applied for a job as a caster at Kobe-Wieland’s Pine Hill, N.C., plant. Kobe-Wieland also has a plant in Wheeling, north of Chicago.
When Cardwell showed up to work the first day, an HR specialist noticed his missing fingers and rescinded the job offer. The HR specialist claimed Cardwell would be unable to perform the job. Cardwell offered to demonstrate his ability to do the work, but the specialist refused.
Cardwell filed an EEOC complaint claiming Kobe-Wieland regarded him as disabled when he was not. That would be a violation of the ADA.
The EEOC suit seeks seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Cardwell, as well as injunctive and other nonmonetary relief.
Note: The ADA bars employers from stereotyping injured or ill employees as being unable to work. Specifically, employers may not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability as long as he or she can perform the job’s essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation.
The ADA requires an individualized assessment to determine whether an accommodation is needed and, if so, whether it is reasonable.
It appears that Kobe-Wieland never gave Cardwell a chance to prove he could perform the job even though his experience suggested he could.